Your name makes a bigger difference to your life than just determining your place in an alphabetically sorted list. With a name like Shravan, I had to struggle that extra bit more. Every time one of my relatives heard that I had decided to become neither a doctor nor an engineer and go against my parent’s wishes, they shook their head and said I was going to tarnish the legacy of not just my second name but my first name as well.
With a name like Shravan, I was born into the lower half of every list that had my name. Alphabetical or otherwise. I did not want to spend the rest of my life in the bottom half of a list of engineers and doctors. I don’t enjoy being part of the bottom half of a list. Alphabetical is ok. But not otherwise.
So, I decided to be a writer and did not pick a separate pen-name. Meanwhile, to pay the bills, I am a part-time amateur detective. Or is it amateur part-time detective? Anyways, you get the point.
The day I opened my detective office and by that I mean the day I set up my amateur detective website, my mother told me not to worry and that when things start falling into place, they start falling into place from every direction. Like a stack of falling dominoes.
I believe that my present circumstances are exactly like that. Like a stack of falling dominoes.
My first book was a collection of horror stories. It had finally received some interest from a billionaire who liked to fund book publishing with his spare money whenever there was no tech start-up that caught his fancy. My career as a writer was just beginning to see some bloom. But, since this is the time when things are supposed to be falling into place from every direction (like a stack of falling dominoes) for me, my detective career has also seen its first customer.
Mr Xima, the eccentric billionaire, has been murdered. His murder is my first case and he was also the one who was interested in publishing my book. Talk about things falling into place at the same time at the same place.
The funding of my publication has been put on hold till the case of Mr Xima’s murder is solved. And who better than me to push things to a speedy resolution than the amateur detective whose book will be funded by his company?
This day, everything was going to fall into place from all directions. I said these words to myself as I stood outside Mr. Xima’s bungalow. I straightened my collar and walked into the room where I had asked everyone to assemble.
I was accosted immediately by the tallest member in the room, Mr Xima’s butler. “I am tired of all this prejudice. Just because every mystery story ends with ‘the butler did it’ does not mean I am guilty. They told me you are the detective who’s been working on the case.’
The butler’s appeal did seem genuine but I should be as unbiased as possible here. Luckily for me, Benny, Mr Xima’s business partner cut-in. “This class of filth is responsible for all this. They do not work hard and they get jealous when they see wealth around them. These communists I tell you. All they want to do is go on strikes and do aaram. The communist butler was jealous of Mr. Xima’s wealth and murdered him” said Mr Benny and cut a look at Mr. Aram, Mr. Xima’s neighbour who had in the past displayed subtle signs of holding some political views.
“It’s pronounced Aram, you fascist elitist, capitalist pig. And as far as jealously at your lot goes, not all of us are like Smita.” said Aram and cut a look at Smita who was Mr. Xima’s illegitimate step-daughter.
“Ok let us not go around calling each other names now” I cut in sounding as authoritative as my vocal chords allowed. “I have gathered all of you here to let you know that I have figured out who the murderer is, and I assure you, the murderer is one of us six.” I said sounding pleased at the momentary silence that followed.
“There are seven of us in this room”, said Teena, Mr Xima’s legitimate wife.
“I was counting only the suspects and I did not count myself as one. That was deliberate” I replied as I took a deep breath in. I have to be polite with everyone till my book is published. Who knows what percentage of the company shares Mrs. Teena will inherit.
Also, I knew Teena was not the murderer. The fact that it was a heart attack and not poison was confirmed.
“Lena, can you bring me the medicine that you gave your father on the night that he died?” I said to Lena, Mr Xima and Teena’s legitimate daughter and eventual inheritor of Mr. Xima’s empire.
“Are you saying that I did it deliberately? I mean, which daughter would want to murder her own dad?” said Lena.
The 19 year old Lena did have the looks that would make one want to believe her. But this was work. I had to remain as unbiased as possible. Anyone can be a suspect, anyone can be the murderer.
“You are the only suspect left Lena. The vial in Smita’s necklace is almond oil. She uses it for aroma therapy.” I said trying not to appear too condescending.
I continued “Although Benny is the one who stands to gain the most in the short term with your father’s death, he was not even in the country when Mr X was murdered. He was on his business trip I said with added emphasis on the last two words so that Mr. Benny knows that I know what Mr Benny was up to on his so called business trip. The details don’t have to be revealed unless Mr. Benny’s wife is impressed with my performance in this case and hires me to spy on her husband.
My effective use of emphasis on the words business trip had its intended effect. Benny did not interrupt me for the rest of my elucidation.
I continued. “Mrs Teena had indeed bought a vial of this intravenous drug. But, it was injected into the dog as part of his medication”. I looked around the room for the dog so that I can point at him. Unable to find the dog, I decided to point my finger in the air and continued, “That leaves only you Lena.” And I paused for the brilliance of my deduction to sink in.
The sinking of the brilliance of my deduction was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. That must be the police I exclaimed. I marvelled at their timely arrival and opened the door. Dr Kenny the family doctor walked in. I had emailed him my deductions earlier in the day and asked him to collect forensic evidence to back up the case. He must be here with the evidence.
“You idiot. Lena giving the wrong medicine to Mr Xima did not cause the heart attack”. The sinking in of the brilliance of my deduction was halted by that statement.
“What?!” was all I could manage.
“There is no way one wrong dose of that medicine would have caused a fatal heart attack. If it did, there would be far fewer idiots on this planet” and continued to stare at me as if I were one of them.
My grip was on the room as well as my grip on my faculties were weakening. People started murmuring and the chaos in the room made it hard for me to focus. I walked past the roving eyes and into the bedroom where Mr X was found lying dead on his bed.
“The only thing that could have caused Mr. Xima’s heart attack is a sudden trauma or shock or scare” I could hear Dr Kenny explaining things to my list of suspects.
The bedroom had been sealed off for investigations the day Mr. Xima was found dead. I looked around the room.
What did I miss, I continued thinking. I walked towards the bed.
What could have scared him in his bedroom? I looked at the bed where was found. I remember that his palm was open and lying outside the bed. As if it had dropped something heavy just before the heart attack.
I traced the trajectory of the object that could have fallen from his hand to under the bed.
I crouched down and saw the object under the bed. I put on my gloves, picked up the object and looked at it. I was staring at the initial draft of my collection of horror stories. I could hear dominoes falling into place from all directions.
The above piece was written at a session of Write Club on 27th February, 2016. The topic was to write a murder revelation scene involving particular characters. The character names were pre-determined so I do not take any responsibility for the complicated names.
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